As car owners, somethings are simply out of our control. We spend hours detailing, cleaning, polishing, and enhancing the shine and luster of our rides – only to have a bird perfectly time their waste expelling process.
While there are several great products that can protect your paint surface from a stain caused by bird droppings, we get a lot of questions about what to do when birds wreck your car’s paint job.
Bird excrement is highly toxic stuff. In fact, according to research (yes there are people who study bird shit) – the pH level of bird crap rivals extreme acid rain. As soon as it touches the vehicle, it’s critical to remove it safely -- not just a quick trip to the drive up car wash either. If not – it can slowly penetrate the clear coat, creating a semi-permanent etching or stain that will stand out.
But – there are options to consider, and that’s what we’ll discuss today. In today’s AvalonKing blog, I’ll dig deep into what any car owner can do once a bird decides to empty their bowels at the most unfortunate time. I’ll also break down why it causes so much damage and provide a few tips for protecting your car from being damaged in the first place.
How Bird Poop Damages Car Paint
A few days ago, I wrote and posted an article talking about how ceramic coatings help to protect a vehicle’s paint from bird crap. But, a few people asked about how bird poop causes damage in the first place. Well, this is a rather drawn out -- but it’s important to outline.
So, let’s start with the facts about car paint itself.
Automotive paint is applied using a four-step process.
First, the bare metal is treated with a chemical acid bath, which removes imperfections, oils, greases, and other contaminants. Second, a primer coating is applied to the metal to provide a base-coating. Next, the paint is sprayed on top of the primer, usually two or three coats. Finally, a clear coating provides a hard layer of protection.
The main problem is that clear coats are that hard. In fact, modern paints are much thinner than in years past, meaning that vehicle paint jobs are quickly exposed to contaminants that can cause significant damage. This includes bird stuff.
Why does Bird Droppings Damage Car Paint?
Like most waste products, bird waste is created by acids breaking down food. But birds do not have a normal digestion system. They instead use a cloaca, which uses urine or uric acid crystals to break down the bugs, insects, seeds, and other items they consume. Since most of the ‘stuff’ birds eat have acidic levels themselves, this creates a perfect storm to brew some highly volatile stuff.
The pH level of bird crap ranges from 3.5 to 4.5 – which is the point where it starts to burn paint and clear coatings. This is why it leaves a stain when it’s left on the paint or another surface for too long.
How Quickly Do Bird Droppings Cause Damage?
As soon as they contact your paint – the damage begins. Bird byproducts are highly acidic, but it’s the type of acid that makes the difference in this case. Uric acid (which is the byproduct used in the digestion of birds) is among the most aggressive acids out there. Bird poop is also incredibly sticky. This is what helps it to bond to the clear coat, especially those peaks and valleys found on porous materials.
As the bird poop sticks, it goes to work to burn the top layer of whatever it touches. It can begin to cause damage to plastic trim, vinyl wraps, PPF, or clear coats that are soft within a few hours. This is a major reason why it’s so crucial to remove bird droppings correctly as soon as you see it on the vehicle.
How to Remove Bird Poop from Your Car Safely
Ok, DIY’ers – it’s time to get technical, by providing five of the most common techniques to remove bird poop from your ride. The items used below have been shown to safely remove bird droppings with very little risk to your vehicle’s existing paint surface or clear coat.
Please note – these tips are for removing from car paint, some materials like glass, vinyl, or plastic trim should use specialty products for those materials.
The good ol’ WD-40 has more than 250 uses – including cleaning dried bird shit from your car paintwork. This highly effective spray lubricant penetrates the bird poop as it dries and sticks to the clear coat and can be rinsed or wiped away.
For best results, make sure your car is not in direct sunlight. Let the surface temperature cool to ‘room temp’, then spray the compete area impacted with WD-40. Let it soak in for about a minute, then just wipe away with a damp cloth or microfiber cloth or rinse it off with a spray hose.
It is recommended to use an automotive soap and wash mitt shortly after to remove residue. Again, don’t just take it to local car washes and assume it’s all good.
Hot Water & Baking Soda
The ultimate DIY solution for removing bird poop is to use baking soda and hot water. This method requires a box of baking soda (don’t worry, you won’t use the whole box), a 32-ounce spray bottle, and warm tap water. Mix (4) tablespoons of baking soda and blend it with 32-ounces of warm or hot water. Shake the spray bottle until the baking soda fully mixes with the water.
Once you’re done, spray the solution on the bird droppings, allow it to soak for 5 to 10 minutes, then rinse off with a hose. Like the WD-40 option above, complete the process by washing your car as directed.
Bird Poop Car Wipes
So yeah – I’ll admit it; I had no idea this stuff existed. But, nonetheless, there are specialty products out there that are made specifically for removing bird droppings that have dried on top of the paint. They are usually made of ultra-soft bamboo and biodegradable materials that are soaked in a special formula that breaks down uric acid bird poop. Use as directed by each manufacturer.
You know how they say that a can of Coke can remove rust – well, remove the chemicals and use the carbonated water for bird crap removal instead. For this technique, grab a can of club soda or seltzer water, shake it up really good, open it up, and pour over the bird crap. This method works best on glass, as you’ll let it soak, then use the windshield wipers to clean off.
*Just a note – DO NOT USE COLA’S – as this will cause a lot of damage to many surfaces – just plain club soda.
Quick Detail Spray
There are several, really good quick detail sprays out there. And most of them are quite good at removing bird poop from automotive surfaces. The key is to make sure to use detail sprays made for the materials you’re spraying them on. Some are just for automotive paint and clear coats, while some can be used on all surfaces. Use as directed by the manufacturer for best results -- and use with microfiber cloths.
Why is it Important to Be Careful When Cleaning Bird Poop Off Your Car?
Bird poop is very sticky and can adhere to your paint quite quickly. When it does, it literally fuses to the clear coating of the paint surface. This makes it quite tricky to remove, unless you break down the chemicals or uric acid found in bird shit, then wipe clean.
One thing you don’t want to do is scratch bird droppings off with your fingernail or other materials. First, it’s gross and hard to get that shit from under your fingernail – and second, it can damage the clear coat. Use the methods above to safely remove it.
How to Fix Stains Caused by Bird Poop
So, in researching this article, I found 15 articles with similar titles that explained how to remove bird droppings, but never address the 500-pound gorilla in the room – how do you F#$king fix damage caused by bird chit?
Well – here we go folks – some practical tips for a common problem most of us deal with frequently.
The first type of paint damage caused by bird stuff is referred to as a topical stain. This happens when the bird poop begins to burn into the clear coat but is removed before permanent damage occurs. Essentially, it is a shallow stain that is on top of the clear coat.
The best way to remove these stains is by using a polishing or cutting compound. In this process, you’ll need the following supplies:
- An electric polisher
- Microfiber polishing cloths (multiple)
- A polishing or cutting compound
- Microfiber buffing towel(s)
- The process is rather simple:
Step 1 – Wash the vehicle
The first thing you want to do is wash the impacted area by using the two-bucket washing method. This will remove the majority of dirt or surface contaminants, so you don’t cause additional scratching when you’re completing the polishing step.
Step 2 – Use a Clay Mitt
The second step is to use a clay bar or clay mitt to remove as many microscopic contaminants that are trapped in the clear coat. This may remove the stain – which means you won’t have to proceed.
Step 3 – Tape off the Section
If you have a specific spot of bird crap that has stained the surface, you can spot heal that area by ‘buffing it out’ with a polishing wheel and compound. It’s a good idea to tape off that section so that you can focus your efforts on that spot.
Step 4 – Complete the Paint Correction
Basically, you’re doing minor paint correction with this step. This article serves as a great resource for learning how to complete this. The video below also provides a great “how-to” guide – so watch it for step by step instructions.
Step 5 – Remove the Tape and Polish the Entire Section
To even things out, consider doing a final polish on the entire section. If the spots are on a hood, polish the entire hood, so you don’t have low or high spots.
Fractured Paint or Etching
The second level of bird shit damage is called fractured or etched paint. This is the real serious paint damage stuff caused by excessive exposure to bird crap and failing to remove it quickly. In most instances, this is something you’ll want to have a professional detailer complete, as it’s technical, time-consuming, and can be very tricky to accomplish.
Products You Can Use to Protect Paint from Bird Dropping Damage
While using waxing your car and applying paint sealants are really good for providing protection against UV rays and other minor contaminants, they’re not great with bird droppings. As we stated above, bird droppings have a highly acidic pH level. If bird crap is left on a vehicle with carnauba wax or a paint sealant only, it can eat away at those natural or synthetic wax is in a matter of days.
If you’re looking for serious paint protection from bird droppings, then a high-quality ceramic coating is really your best option. A nanoceramic coating is a quartz-based liquid polymer that is applied by a certified technician or with special DIY formulas that can be installed by the average car enthusiast.
The ceramic coating is comprised of SiO2 or Silica Dioxide (Liquid Quartz – not to be confused with Liquid Schwartz). When it’s applied, it provides an exceptionally strong layer of protection, that fills in those microscopic imperfections found on clear coats, plastic trim, vinyl wrap, PPF, wheels, and even glass.
This hard shield of protection can hold up against exposure to UV rays, salt, and bird droppings for up to 3 to 5 years in some cases. And like we stated above, it can be installed on any vehicle surface – even plastic or chrome-plated items.
The DIY Kit includes everything you need to perform a professional grade ceramic coating without any prior experience. Get the feeling of driving a new car, every day.
When the coating cures (usually about 24 to 48 hours), the protective surface becomes highly hydrophobic. This means that sticky items (like bird crap) have a hard time bonding to the surface. As a result, clean-up and removal usually consist of spraying off with a hose. It’s really that simple.